Currently Browsing: Civil Liberties
Jun 8, 2015
A reader asked about the public comment period for the proposed rule by the State Department to muzzle free speech for gun owners. Here is what the proposal says about public comments:
DATES: The Department of State will accept comments on this proposed rule until August 3, 2015.
ADDRESSES: Interested parties may submit comments within 60 days of the date of publication by one of the following methods:
Comments received after that date may be considered, but consideration cannot be assured. Those submitting comments should not include any personally identifying information they do not desire to be made public or information for which a claim of confidentiality is asserted because those comments and/or transmittal emails will be made available for public inspection and copying after the close of the comment period via the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls Web site at www.pmddtc.state.gov. Parties who wish to comment anonymously may do so by submitting their comments via www.regulations.gov, leaving the fields that would identify the commenter blank and including no identifying information in the comment itself. Comments submitted via www.regulations.gov are immediately available for public inspection.
So you have until August to submit a public comment. I encourage everyone to do so. Remember, they are legally required to address serious comments. If they receive even tens of thousands of them, it will seriously interfere with their ability to promulgate this regulation according to the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). If they are going to do this power grab, I see no reason to make it easy for them!
Jun 8, 2015
The nomination for the
Police State, I mean State Police, Commissioner has been recalled as of this morning. It looks like it’s a good news/bad news scenario.
Marcus Brown will continue as Acting Commissioner, giving him the ability to continue to abuse his power violating the rights of Pennsylvanians to criticize him and his decision relating to his office. Brown has a history of publicly backing Martin O’Malley’s extreme gun control proposals. The agency he ran in Maryland was accused of targeting gun owners to find any reason to pull them over and search them. The bad news is that he is free to continue these practices (those documented on video and alleged) here in Pennsylvania for the moment.
The good news is that the Pennsylvania Senate has to formally accept the recall, and they have indicated they will not unless Gov. Tom Wolf agrees to nominate someone else. That would get Brown out of the office, and may we’d be lucky enough that he’ll leave Pennsylvania. The flip side of that coin is that anyone nominated by Wolf is unlikely to be friendly to Second Amendment rights.
UPDATE: And that didn’t go well for Wolf… The Senate moved forward with a vote regardless of the recall request and voted Marcus Brown down. That’s good news for those of us who have a little respect for the rule of law.
I’ll be honest, I don’t know what the process is now that Brown has officially been turned down by the Senate. I would hope it means he’s hauled out of his office as Acting Commissioner right now, but I realize that’s a bit of hopeful thinking.
Jun 7, 2015
I’m a bit late to the discussion about a new proposal from the State Department that appeared in the Federal Register on Wednesday, but I wanted to take time to read through the whole thing, make sure I understand it, and ensure that the proposal was really as bad as the righty media is making it out to be. I can confidently say that none of what is said in this article at the Washington Examiner is exaggerated, or hyperbolic in an attempt to make the Administration look bad. It really is this bad.
This is what the NRA has to say about it, and after reading the proposal, it’s a pretty accurate summary:
In their current form, the ITAR do not (as a rule) regulate technical data that are in what the regulations call the “public domain.” Essentially, this means data “which is published and which is generally accessible or available to the public” through a variety of specified means. These include “at libraries open to the public or from which the public can obtain documents.” Many have read this provision to include material that is posted on publicly available websites, since most public libraries these days make Internet access available to their patrons.
The ITAR, however, were originally promulgated in the days before the Internet. Some State Department officials now insist that anything published online in a generally-accessible location has essentially been “exported,” as it would be accessible to foreign nationals both in the U.S. and overseas.
With the new proposal published on June 3, the State Department claims to be “clarifying” the rules concerning “technical data” posted online or otherwise “released” into the “public domain.” To the contrary, however, the proposal would institute a massive new prior restraint on free speech. This is because all such releases would require the “authorization” of the government before they occurred. The cumbersome and time-consuming process of obtaining such authorizations, moreover, would make online communication about certain technical aspects of firearms and ammunition essentially impossible.
Penalties for violations are severe and for each violation could include up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million. Civil penalties can also be assessed. Each unauthorized “export,” including to subsequent countries or foreign nationals, is also treated as a separate violation.
Gunsmiths, manufacturers, reloaders, and do-it-yourselfers could all find themselves muzzled under the rule and unable to distribute or obtain the information they rely on to conduct these activities. Prior restraints of the sort contemplated by this regulation are among the most disfavored regulations of speech under First Amendment case law.
I can offer you this, and 311 other reasons why this proposal should scare the ever loving hell out of you. I mostly post about the politics of the gun issue, which should be safe under this proposal, but even I would have to remove or revise a few hundred posts (not that I intend to, the State Department toadies that came up with this fascist BS can FOAD). I can’t imaging how many counts a more gun oriented site would rack up.
It’s my opinion that this petition for rule making is aimed squarely at Cody Wilson and Defense Distributed. The powerful take their imagined prerogative to control quite seriously, and they don’t particularly appreciate someone trying to throw a wrench into their carefully controlled, petty fiefdoms. This is the backlash I’ve been waiting for, and have been concerned about. That The Empire would Strike Back was a fore-drawn conclusion.
So what kind of position are we in to stop this usurpation of our First and Second Amendment rights? First, we can use the public comment period. The more serious comments we flood them with the better chance it will cripple their ability to implement the regulation, as we did with the M855 ban. This also can indicate to lawmakers there is passion, and we can use that leverage to get a budget rider to prevent implementation of the rule.
What about the courts? This is not the first time Uncle Sam has tried to do something like this. Back in the 1990s, we had a flight over ITAR regulation of cryptography, though in that instance, they simply classified it as a munition. This proposal is actually far more broad than that. The encryption issue was resolved when the Clinton Administration backed down and reclassified encryption as a commerce control item rather than a munition when court challenges didn’t go well for the government. Those two cases, Bernstein v. United States and Junger V. Daley, resulted in losses for the government position in the 9th and 6th federal circuits respectively . However, the Supreme Court never definitively ruled in either of those cases, and like I said, 311 reasons you should be worried about this.
This is very dire, friends. If this moves forward there is a very good chance I, and many of my other fellow bloggers, forum admins, and YouTubers will end up in federal prison while the Courts sort this out. Don’t ever let anyone ever tell you what these people want are “common sense” regulations. They are fascists. That is no longer arguable. There will be a lot of firearms enthusiasts serving prison time for essentially the same crime they would be charged with had they traveled to Iraq and sold plans for a thermonuclear weapon to ISIS. Fundamentally transformed!
This news has to spread far and wide if we’re going to stop this terrible thing. I’ve even put it on my personal Facebook that I only rarely use to post political stuff. People have to know about this.
UPDATE: If you want to submit a public comment on this regulation, I have compiled all the information from 1400-AD70, which is the code for this Retition for Rule Making, on how to submit a public comment.
May 6, 2015
Two years ago, Defense Distributed was preempted by the state Department from posting plans for the Liberator Pistol online, arguing they were a controlled munition. Many of us in the tech business got a strong case of deja vu, remembering a similar government assertion in the 1990s that didn’t end up going all that well for the government.
In that grand tradition, Cody Wilson of Defense distributed has filed suit against the State Department, arguing First Amendment grounds. Lest anyone think this is some kind of fringe suit, it has the backing of SAF, and Alan Gura is among the attorneys on the case.
The New York Times describes this as “trailblazing,” but really this is just a continuation of the argument that happened over encryption in the 1990s. I predict this will not go well for the government. It shouldn’t go well for the government.
Mar 19, 2015
If you just claim that it’s “for the children,” our new Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner (an import from Maryland) seems to argue that theft is okay – especially if you’re stealing from those who criticize you in your official role as a public servant.
Marcus Brown is facing opposition for appearing in uniform that creates the perception he graduated from the state police academy, which he did not. When a critic had signs printed pointing out that he shouldn’t wear such things that he did not earn and legally placed them on a public area, Brown apparently decided to steal them in the name of “[his] children” since their bus stop is nearby.
Now, stealing someone else’s signs from a public area is a crime. You’d think that means Brown would be apologetic for getting caught on video committing this crime, but he’s standing by his theft proudly – behind the back of the spokesperson for the Pennsylvania State Police.
I’ll be honest, if I lived out there, I’d be very tempted to have signs made up that say “Marcus Brown Stop Stealing Signs,” “Marcus Brown Stop Trying to Silence Critics,” and “Marcus Brown The First Amendment Applies in Pennsylvania, Too” and plaster them all over public areas to the degree allowed by law. There wouldn’t be a corner he could turn where he wouldn’t be reminded that Pennsylvanians value their freedom of speech and ability to speak their mind on what public officials are doing with their office.
Funny enough, the video that captures him stealing the signs in the name of “safety” for his children shows him leaving up non-critical signs in the same spot. It’s pretty clear he’s abusing the right of those who disagree with him and there is no safety issue involved. The video makes it appear that he singled out their message to be silenced based on the content critical of him and he now admits to taking the sign. Perhaps his stationary order got mixed up and he thought that being in charge of the Pennsylvania State Police was being charged with overseeing the Police State of Pennsylvania.
Mar 13, 2015
I had to take a couple of breaks from this Atlantic piece on how awful it is that the First Amendment allows unpleasant people to say unpleasant things in an unpleasant manner.
Yes, freedom does mean that some people will live and speak in a different manner than you – maybe even in a way that is offensive. Speaking out and telling them how offensive they are is often a great tool to get them to quiet down. In fact, such results might even be considered social shaming, which is a form of punishment that exists outside of government. It involves things like individual people making the decision to no longer support the people who offend them and letting them suffer social consequences that can often be extremely unpleasant. However, the Atlantic writer appears to believe that since such punishment doesn’t involve a police gun to the head, handcuffs, and a court room, it’s not actually any punishment at all.
I think what really got me going was the extreme elitism on display in this bit:
No one with a frontal lobe would mistake this drunken anthem for part of an uninhibited and robust debate about race relations. … If the First Amendment has become so bloated, so ham-fisted, that it cannot distinguish between such filth and earnest public debate about race, then it is time we rethink what it means.
It would seem that the argument is that if you can’t speak eloquently and aren’t engaged in thoughtful debate, then your First Amendment rights should be “rethought.”
I have to say that one reason this elitism on speech probably drove me a little more up the wall today is because I just witnessed someone in another forum who, to be blunt, is currently incapable of speaking eloquently or engaging in what the writer would consider “earnest public debate.” While her form of rather odd text speak at all times is nearly impossible for others to follow, that doesn’t mean the government needs to declare that she deserves less in the way of protection for her speech than what I deserve because I am likely capable of being more articulate in expressing the same things.
Freedom means that some people will make different choices that you don’t like. The beauty of freedom is that when those people are in charge, you can make the choices they don’t like and feel confident that you won’t be put away for the “crime” of those statements and actions.
Feb 25, 2015
Emily Miller’s application for a carry permit was approved. About time.
My guess is they figured that doing so and hoping she went away was better than the alternative
Jan 28, 2015
According to the ACLU, the DEA and ATF were conspiring to use license plate readers at gun shows. Presumably all this was because, war on drugs, and because, terrorism or something like that. You have to wonder with as pervasive as the surveillance state is becoming, with technology enabling it to ever greater heights, how long we have until there’s de facto registration even without the government even needing to resort to 4473s. Just watch a gun range for a while via drone or satellite, and just start compiling a list. Soon you won’t even need people to do this. You won’t even need to specifically focus the camera on the gun range. It’ll all be done algorithmically by computers, compiling tons and tons of data to be called up and analyzed any time the powers that be want to scrutinize someone.
The scary part is, I don’t know if there’s a good way to stop it. The chest pounders among us would perhaps suggest such a state deserves “Second Amendment remedies,” and it’s hard to argue that such a persuasive surveillance state has any legitimacy. But the technology will be there. Would you trust anyone with it?
Dec 22, 2014
From the Washington Post (of all places), comes this piece on the normalization of the surveillance state via a childrens’ book.
(My wife and I are both in agreement on this; we won’t have the little informer in our house).
Incidentally, I find it interesting that you apparently have to break an ingrained more against “tattling” or “telling.” There is something very low-level in our makeup (either social, culturalm or genetic) that works against providing negative information to an authority (be it parental or outside the family unit).
Sep 24, 2014
The Express-Times in Lehigh Valley area decided to attack those concerned about potential constitutional violations in an op-ed, saying that those who have had their rights violated and want to stand up for them are merely “opportunistic” and too concerned with themselves to put up with a “temporary intrusion” that has lasted at least a week.
They even highlight a quote from the Pennsylvania State Police’s PR guy that assures us that not all people are completely cut off from their homes. Citizens can trust that if the police think you actually have a good reason to go to your home, then they will be the ones to decide if/when you get access, and only under escort if they like your reasons for wanting to go home.
So, I’d like to know how the Express-Times staff would react to the news that the state police argue that their coverage of the events is helping the suspect evade law enforcement. Sure, they have no actual evidence that the suspect has access to their papers, but it’s a possibility that he might be in the area and using the resources to evade them – like he might possibly be hiding out in every single car in the area or every home in the area.
Therefore, the police ask that the Express-Times stop publishing their paper during this “temporary intrusion” and that any efforts to argue that they have a First Amendment right that must be respected is a case of them being “opportunistic” and overly greedy with their Constitution rights claims.
Some public relations officer will remind their editors that they aren’t really blocking all access to their publishing equipment – because if the police determine there’s any message worth hearing, then they will provide an armed escort to any reporter or editor they hand select to supervise their limited visit to the printer.
I find it hard to believe that the Express-Times staff wouldn’t be on the phone to lawyers trying to argue for their Constitutional rights. Why are they condemning anyone else who is concerned that in specific instances, perhaps law enforcement have gone too far and actually crossed the line into violating someone’s rights?
According to another report on the situation, attorney Josh Prince has already talked to someone who was forced out of their home, despite having three dogs there, and has been refused access to care for them since Sunday. It was Tuesday when that story was posted. The New York Times found a man who was thrown to the ground and detained in handcuffs just for going to his own home.
Regardless of what the public relations officer is telling the media, it’s clear that there are reports from those forced to leave that the police are keeping people away from their homes. If they aren’t keeping them away from their homes, it’s clear that at least some officers have gotten a little too quick to act against local citizens. Any lawyer who is helping someone understand their rights – and whether or not they have been violated – should be applauded.